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How Does Temperature Affect Your Tires?

tire-tempsThere’s more to just properly caring for your tires than having them rotated every 5,000 to 8,000 miles (or roughly every other oil change). Yes, the likes of vehicle alignments help too, but one common aspect that many drivers fail to account for is the impact that temperature has on your tires. There are both safety and performance issues that are likely to occur by neglecting proper tire care and maintenance in both hot and cold weather.

In Cold Weather

The golden rule to follow is that for every 10 degrees that the outside temperature fluctuates, tire pressure will either increase or decrease by 1 psi. For instance, if a cold spell hits your hometown in February and the temperatures dip from 30 degrees Fahrenheit to 0 degrees, your tire pressure will decrease by about 3 psi – and underinflated tires can be very problematic. Specifically, underinflated tires run hot – and this excess heat can cause premature tire failure.

What’s more is that underinflated tires will wear unevenly, often in a way where the tread on the outside edges of the tire will wear away faster than tread in the middle. This is even more evident when it comes to winter tires, as the softer rubber will wear much faster than it would on all-season tires. As you might expect, this additional rolling resistance also isn’t good for your fuel economy, as it’s estimated that underinflated tires can decrease fuel economy by at least 1 mpg.

Aside from causing premature tire wear and failure, driving on underinflated tires can be a big safety hazard. Not only can underinflated tires compromise vehicle handling, but the excess heat that is generated can lead to sudden tire blowouts.

Bottom line – in cold weather, it’s best to get into a habit where you check your tire pressure on a weekly basis. In deep freezes, you may want to check them every few days. It’s also important to note that when you check the tire pressure, make sure you do it before the car has been run, as driving can increase tire pressure anywhere from 2 to 5 psi. Doing a “cold check” and then filling the tire to its user manual-recommended pressure will ensure you’re checking the pressure and then filling it correctly.

In Hot Weather

Many drivers incorrectly believe that cold weather is the only type of weather that can have an impact on their tires. In reality, hot temperatures can take their toll on tire pressure as well. Remember, for every 10 degrees in fluctuation, there’s about a 1 psi increase or decrease in tire pressure. So in hot weather, you can easily wind up with overinflated tires, which pose their own set of issues.

Just as there’s uneven tread wear with underinflated tires, there’s also uneven tread wear with overinflated ones – except instead of occurring at the edges, it occurs in the middle. There’s also the danger of a blowout from enhanced temperatures. The only benefit of overinflated tires is that you’ll get slightly better fuel economy due to lesser rolling resistance. However, this marginal improvement in miles per gallon isn’t worth the risk of a blowout – or having to spend hundreds of dollars on a new set of tires earlier than anticipated due to premature wear.

One of the biggest factors in tire damage and premature replacement is improper inflation. And while it’s natural for tires to lose air pressure over time, the outside temperature can play a big role in inflation as well, which is why it’s crucial to know when – and how often – you should be checking your tire pressure. Failure to do so and keep your tires properly inflated could lead to dire consequences, ranging from tire damage to premature wear to even further vehicle damage resulting from a blowout.

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